Feb 12 2014, 9:21 AM EST -
By BILL PENNINGTON
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - One of the favorites, Tina Maze of Slovenia, and a journeywoman skier, Dominique Gisin of Switzerland, tied for the gold medal in the women’s downhill Wednesday. Lara Gut of Switzerland won the bronze. It was the first tie for a gold medal in Alpine skiing at the games and the first gold medal for Slovenia at a Winter Games.
Gisin was eighth out of the gate, before any of the big names skied, and her time of 1 minute 41.57 seconds set the early pace. Gisin has won just two World Cup downhills, both in 2009. She had earned her spot on the Swiss downhill team only last week by outracing a teammate, Nadja Jnglin-Kamer, in a training run. “Now that I have won, I am living the dream, but this is better than dreaming,” Gisin said.
Four years ago, in this event in Vancouver, Gisin crashed spectacularly on the final jump, sustaining a concussion.
Julia Mancuso of the United States was the first of the big names to ski, going 12th. But after a fast start, she lost time farther down the course, was thrown around in several turns, and was not nearly as clean as she has been on other days here. She was out of the medals immediately.
The next to challenge Gisin was Gut. Gut flirted with her countrywoman’s time all the way down the mountain, but came up a tenth of a second short. The favorite, Maria Höfl-Riesch of Germany, winner of the super combined Monday, never got going, and was well off the pace.
Maze looked like the gold medal winner, taking an early lead over Gisin’s time and extending it as she skied. But she lost several tenths in the last stretch and crossed the line in the same time as Gisin.
Referring to her gold medal, Maze said: “I have been dreaming about this since I was little.”
Although there has never been a tie for a gold in an Olympics Alpine event, there have been ties for other medals, most recently at the 1998 Nagano Games when Didier Cuche and Hans Knauss tied in the men’s Super-G. There were also ties for silver in the 1992 and 1964 women’s giant slalom, and for bronze in the 1948 men’s downhill.
It was the eighth tie for gold in any event at the Winter Games.
The top five women in the World Cup downhill standings going into the race were Höfl-Riesch, Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein, Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden of Switzerland, Anna Fenninger of Austria and Maze. Weirather had hoped to race after skipping the super combined with a shin bruise sustained in training, but she decided that she had not recovered enough to compete and now may not appear in the Olympics at all.
Much of the prerace talk had been about Mancuso, the American who seems to specialize in big races. Mancuso won the downhill portion of the women’s super combined Monday, signaling that she was again in good form at the right time. Gut and Maze were second and third over that downhill, held over the same course as Wednesday’s race. In the super combined, however, Höfl-Riesch skied a strong slalom to pass them all and take a third Olympic gold medal in women’s Alpine skiing, one fewer than Janica Kostelic’s record.
Looming over the race Wednesday was the absence of Lindsey Vonn, the U.S. star who has dominated downhill and won four overall World Cup titles. She stumbled and seriously reinjured her reconstructed right knee on the ski slopes first in November and then again in December, and in January pulled out of the games.